2014: Issue 3

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Editorial by Cheryl White

Welcome to the third issue of the International Journal of Narrative Therapy and Community Work for 2014.

We’re delighted with the diversity of the pieces included here! From work with the elderly residents of a Jewish nursing home in Australia; to work with young people using hip-hop in North America and the UK; to innovative narrative couple therapy (with a polyamorous reflection from Austria), there’s something here for just about everyone.

What’s more, we’ve also included an interview about research and power; a paper about narrative group work; reflections from a psychiatrist engaged with narrative therapy; and an invitation to engage with young people through the realm of computer games.

We hope you enjoy the issue!

Warm regards,

Cheryl White


david-epstonA guest column by David Epston

I (David Epston) am grateful to both Tania Beekmans and Joel Fay for their contributions to this issue of the Journal.

Tania Beekmans graduated from the Bachelors in Social Practice, UNITEC Institute of Technology in Auckland, New Zealand. Since graduating, she has worked at ATWC Family Start from 2006 till 2012. She is currently a Practice Leader at Turuki Health Care – Kotahitanga Family Start. In her work with Kendra, Sam, their daughter Dreia and extended family, she hit upon a very novel way so that the implicit prejudice that was making it impossible for her/Dreia to access public places was turned in to encounters that were encouraging of both her and Dreia. I know of no letter ever written in the context of narrative therapy that has been read by 150 or so readers. I wish I could have been present to see the smiles on shoppers’ faces after reading this letter and the slogans on Dreia’s t-shirt: ‘Oxygen helps my lungs grow – your smile will help me thrive!’

Joel Fay, affectionately and respectfully known as the ‘narrative policeman’, has been long known for the creativity of his practice. His thesis was a remarkable development of narrative inquiry offering police officers the means to debrief a fellow police officer after a critical or subcritical incident in a bar rather than a psychologist’s office (see A Narrative Approach to Critical and Sub-Critical Incident Debriefings). Another co-authored paper by myself, eleven year old Sasha, her untrained puppy, Amber, Joel and his police dog, Isha (see ‘Joel, can you help me to train Amber to be a guard dog?) is a testament to Joel’s creativity. Until his retirement from the San Rafael Police Department, Joel was developing what was referred to as ‘restorative policing’ which was being researched by the State of California. His ‘restorative policing’ was the subject of Public Broadcast Service(PBS) in United States in their Visionaries series. Joel has also been awarded by the American Civil Liberties Union as a ‘man of justice’ and by the California Association of Psychology as ‘humanitarian of the year’. He is currently in private practice and the Clinical Director of the West Coast Post-Trauma Retreat.


Showing all 8 results

  • Toward a theory of relational accountability: An invitational approach to living narrative ethics in couple relationships— Thomas Stone Carlson and Amanda Haire

    $9.90

    This paper describes an approach to couples therapy that seeks to help couples intimately apply the ethics of narrative ideas in their personal lives and relationships. This intimate application of narrative ideas is focused on helping partners to gain an appreciation for the shaping effects of their actions on one another’s stories of self and to engage in intentional relationship practices that nurture and positively shape the stories of self of their partners. While this approach to working with couples is centred in a narrative philosophy and ethics, alternative practices are presented to help couples challenge the negative effects of individualising discourses on their lives and relationships and to enter preferred relationship practices that are informed by a relational understanding of self and accountability.

  • Why (not) simply loving? Polyamorous reflections— Marion Herbert and Erik Zika

    $5.50

    This short reflective piece was offered at the 12th International Narrative Therapy and Community Work Conference, in Adelaide, Australia, in November 2014. It deals with the relationship option of polyamory: this is a relationship concept that enables the people involved to live sexual and/or love relationships with several partners at the same time in a transparent way. Possible aspects regarding the psychotherapeutic practice are discussed.

  • Making a meaning-full life at Montefiore— Dafna Stern and Caroline Serrure

    $9.90

    This paper examines the question of whether the elderly can make a meaningful life for themselves while residing in residential aged care. This question was explored in a joint project with twelve residents of the Sir Moses Montefiore Jewish Home in Hunters Hill, Sydney. Their reflections were put into a collective document which is available for newcomers to the Home. The document demonstrates a process of meaning-making in which elderly residents play an active role. While participating in the project, attention was drawn to the residents’ skills and knowledges.

  • ‘I gracefully grab a pen and embrace it’: Hip-hop lyrics as a means for re-authoring and therapeutic change— Travis Heath and Paulo Aroyo

    $9.90

    This paper documents the use of hip-hop culture and rap music as a vehicle for change within the context of narrative therapy. Ways in which hip-hop lyrics can provide a voice to a population that is often not granted one, are explored. In addition, dominant stories about hip-hop music as a genre that is exclusively misogynistic, irresponsible, derogatory and offensive, are challenged. A framework for using hip-hop lyrics to assist in core narrative processes such as deconstructing the problem story, unique outcomes, circulation of the new story and re-membering, has been developed. Finally, one of the authors shares his insider experiences with hip-hop music as a tool for change.

    Includes free bonus article ‘Reflecting on Hip-Hop’ by Dzifa Afonu. 

  • The Circle: A narrative group therapy approach— Mike Mertz

    $9.90

    This article describes ‘Circle’, a narrative group therapy approach used in a high-level residential treatment facility for young people involved in the child welfare, juvenile justice, or mental health systems. Most of the young people engaged in Circle have survived significant physical or sexual abuse or neglect and have been viewed, by others and themselves, as ‘severely emotionally disturbed’ or ‘dysfunctional’. Circle is intended to provide a space and opportunity for these young people to build a community of concern, and to identify and embrace preferred identities and directions for their lives. The work progresses through the following three stages: stage one – identifying what the young people give value to, exploring their preferred directions in life, and externalising problems; stage two – taking a stand for what the young people hold as important, negotiating their relationships with problems, and thickening the subordinate storylines of their lives; and stage three – stepping into preferred identities. Three exercises also are provided as illustrations of work completed in each stage of Circle.

  • Protection, collaboration and action: Research and power— An interview with Anita Franklin

    $5.50

    Anita Franklin teaches community workers at Sheffield University in the UK. This interview about research and power was conducted by David Denborough.

  • Serious play with computer games: A sometimes useful approach for connecting with young people who choose to wait and see— Clive Taylor

    $9.90

    Many young people are wary about engaging in counselling and this article explores one approach to connecting with them and inviting useful co-exploration of issues that may have intruded into their lives. The playing of computer games is widespread amongst young people and they have a passion for them and expertise that can be very helpful for narrative explorations. Computer games provide young people with ways of gaining skills and of achieving outcomes against the sometimes overwhelming challenges that games set against them, achievements that can seem completely lacking in their ‘real’ lives. This article follows one such exploration. Counsellors who are not ‘gamers’ can enlist the assistance and expertise of the young person in their exploration of this approach.

  • Narrative Therapy: Wandering with King Arthur and Dr. Watson— Povl E.B. Jensen

    $5.50

    It has been my ambition in recent years to persuade psychiatrists and doctors to include narrative therapy in their daily work practice. Likewise, by taking the best of two worlds, narrative therapy and psychiatry in harmony, I hope to inspire narrative therapists to consider that psychiatry is not the enemy, but can be put to very valuable use. My main point is that a person’s sense of identity, competence and ‘personal agency’ is paramount. Mental illness or disorder has a unique ability to undermine this, and mainstream psychiatry (with medical focus on pathology) is poorly equipped to hold the pieces together, let alone help strengthen selfconcept and self-esteem. By including basic narrative therapy strategies and concepts (like ‘double-listening’, rescuing exceptions to the disqualifying problem-story, use of metaphors and attending to ‘the absent but implicit’) we can achieve a far better engagement between patient/client and psychiatrist/therapist.

1,972 Comments

  1. Listening to Tileah I was provoked to contemplate my own use of language when working with clients. I enjoy the narrative model of practice and I am aware that for some there is definitely stigma attached to the process of counselling or therapy. I have only had one experience of working with an Indigenous person as a client and I will be sure to look at my use of language. I like the idea of it just being a yarn, it takes the pressure and onus off of the client to do something.

  2. Hello:

    This is Andrea from Toronto.

    I found particularly helpful the discussion in the FAQ around the use of metaphors of conflict and combat. I expect to be working in healthcare settings with critically ill patients and their loved ones (mostly children and parents), and I anticipate hearing them use these kinds of combative metaphors during our conversations. I also anticipate meeting many people who are mentally, emotionally, and physically exhausted from “fighting” these problems. I appreciated the comments in the FAQ about combative metaphors, and the suggestions around exploring other kinds of metaphors which may be less conflict-laden and draining on their emotional resources. Thanks again for making this material available!

  3. I have started to use collaboration with clients when I am asked to write a report. I ask clients what they see as the areas of change and challenge of which they want others to be aware. I also at times share my report with the client first to be sure it accurately reflects their experience. In this way they are both acknowledging their ongoing journey and being acknowledged for the work they have done.

  4. Mike here, in London. I too was interested in “We were unwittingly adjusting people to poverty or other forms of injustice by addressing their symptoms, without affecting broader social and structural change.” It’s a really difficult question. I was involved for about 10 years in working with people suffering from homelessness. Sue Mann’s story really rang true for me. One thing I was involved in was a choir for marginalised people, literally helping them find their voices. That, I felt, was useful, and collaborative. But I have always been suspicious of things like distributing left-over sandwiches to people sleeping rough on the street, as if that made it OK for them to be there as long as we give them some stale sandwiches. Or giving them tents or sleeping bags. What message does it send? Even though it may be well-meaning.

  5. Hi, I’m Mike. I work as a couples counsellor in London, England. My main training was 50% psychodynamic and 50% systemic. Narrative work was touched on briefly, for one module, and I am looking forward to learning more. Couples certainly do bring stories, often rather thin stories. “My partner is selfish.” Or “My partner had an affair”. Full stop. That’s all there is to know. Even in happy couples, people seem to get shaped into rather thin roles: this partner is the one who’s good with people, that partner is the one who’s good with money, this one cooks, that one drives. If the relationship ends, they may discover, actually *I* also can drive, cook, manage my money, make friends, I am a complete person.

  6. I think it will be an important part of my practice to investigate with clients which elements of our systems (social, cultural, political, economic) that are contributing to or mitigating their problems and suffering. I was particularly struck by the following sentence from the Just Therapy article: “We were unwittingly adjusting people to poverty or other forms of injustice by addressing their symptoms, without affecting broader social and structural change.” I think it is incumbent upon those of us in helping professions to work with the people we are helping to begin addressing the systemic issues that are contributing to (or creating) their problems. Otherwise, we may fall into this trap of “adjusting people to injustice.”

  7. Hello! My name is Andrea and I am a Masters student in a spiritual care program located in Toronto.

    After reviewing this chapter, I’m reflecting upon the question that was raised: “how do we respond to grief when that grief has been caused by injustice?” and thinking about it in the context of working with seriously ill children and their families in a hospital/hospice setting. Patients and families in that setting also face grief that has been caused by injustice (in the form of incurable illness), and I see how the narrative metaphor can be used to help those families begin to reclaim their own lives in the face of tremendous loss caused by uncontrollable circumstances. I can see how the Articles of the Narrative Therapy Charter of Story-Telling Rights would be tremendously helpful when working with patients and families as a framework for telling and receiving their stories about their lives and their problems.

    For me, the material in this chapter also raises the question of how we can help to facilitate healing in a world where systems are seemingly becoming more unjust and creating deep suffering. My initial thought is that we continue to listen to each other’s stories with deep compassion, and the teachings of this course will help to provide us with new ideas and skills on how to do this.

  8. Chimamanda Adichie’s TED talk was incredible. The one line where she said “a single story creates a stereotype. And the problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue but that they are incomplete”. This blew my mind. I am ashamed to have ever participated in the single story belief of anyone let alone whole cultures, communities and countries , continents and so on. I know that moving forward I will endeavour to hear more stories and to encourage others to tell their story. I am about to run a photovoice narrative project to do just this, give a whole community the opportunity to change their stereotype.

  9. “Narrative therapy doesn’t believe in a ‘whole self’ which needs to be integrated but rather that our identities are made up of many stories, and that these stories are constantly changing.”

    I like this, I find it very compatible with my beliefs as a Buddhist. In Buddhism, as I understand it, mistaken beliefs about a solid, fixed “self” are the source of our suffering.

    I work with couples using EFT for couples, and in that approach, there is a big emphasis on externalising the problem as “the cycle that you get trapped in”, and encouraging couples to come up with their own name for it.

  10. Thank you for this. I am a counsellor, and trying to make as much as possible of my notes “in quotes”, that is, writing down things that the clients said. And not my own opinions.

  11. hello

    I the ED of a Friendship Center in Terrace, BC where were mostly target the indigenous population in our city of 12,000. I found your video interesting and something that we may want to try. Havee you been able to to do any follow ups studies to gage the long term effect of your program?

    Regards

    Cal Albright
    ED
    Kermode Friendship Center
    http://www.keremodefriendship.ca
    Terrace, BC
    Canada

    • Hi Cal, thanks for the interest. At this point the only followup has been through conversations with with people who return to volunteer on additional walks or engage with our other programs.

      However, a group of fourth year medical students at a local university have offered to run a pre and post measured study / report in 2020 as part of their studies which should be interesting.

      Let me know if you would like more information.

      CD

  12. Thank you for this overview of Narrative Therapy. I am returning to practice after some time away, and these reminders are timely and appreciated.

  13. Hi Chris

    I really enjoyed watching your video about Narrative Walks. My project is based in Blaenau Gwent, in South Wales, Uk. I’m wondering whether I might use such an approach in my work with our Youth Service, who support young people between the ages of 11 and 25. Have you any thoughts on this? Are there any resources available, either free or to purchase?

    Best wishes

    Paul

    • Hi Paul, m

      Much of my early attempts of the program were with the 15-20 year old age bracket and I found it worked really well. When I recently had an opportunity to run the program again with this age bracket – I extended the finish time so that could spend more time at the stop points and have a fire at the last resting place to talk about our intentions after the walk. This meant that we used head torches for the 2km which added a bit of a sense of theatre to the day. It was pretty cool.

      If you email me on hello@embarkpsych.com I can send you the manual. Or ask any other questions via this page so others might share in the answers.

      CD

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